The hugely popular singer and actress is now reportedly in a stable condition after an apparent drug overdose. Her plight highlights an opioid epidemic in the US which is increasingly affecting young women.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on July 25, 2018

The 25-year-old Lovato was reportedly hospitalised in Los Angeles on 24 July after an apparent narcotic overdose. She was treated with Naxolone, an anti-overdose medicine, at the scene.

Initial reports that she overdosed on heroin have now been refuted by various news outlets.

She was then rushed from her home in Hollywood Hills to Cedars Sinai Medical Center. She is now reportedly awake and stable.

Fans and fellow musicians led an outpouring of support for Lovato on social media. Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars and Ariana Grande were among those to offer their support on Twitter.

Lovato has been open about her ongoing struggles with substance abuse, addiction and mental health, including in her music. Her father also suffered from drug and alcohol addiction.

On the song ‘Sober’, released earlier this year, she admitted that she had relapsed from a sobriety that had lasted six years:

“Momma, I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore / And daddy, please forgive me for the drinks spilled on the floor

To the ones who never left me, we’ve been down this road before /I’m so sorry, I’m not sober anymore”

In the YouTube documentary Simply Complicated , Lovato revealed the full extent of her past drug use.

“I wasn’t ready to be sober. I was sneaking cocaine on planes, I was sneaking it in bathrooms, sneaking it throughout the night. I went on a bender of like, two months, where I was using daily,” she said.

“I was using while I had a sober companion, and I went through about 20 different sober companions. I would sneak out and get drugs, I would fake my drug tests with other people’s pee.”

The changing face of the opioid epidemic

Adriane Fugh-Berman, a professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University, told The Daily Beast that Lovato, a young and affluent woman, does not fit the stereotype of opioid addiction.

“It used to be older black men,” that people would think of in association with opioid use, Fugh-Berman said.

A white paper published by the US Department of Health and Human Services on the opioid epidemic reported that death rates among women from opioid overdoses rose an alarming 471% between 1999 and 2015. This rate was more than twice the 218% increase reported among men.

The death rate for women from opioid variants such as painkiller Fentanyl also spiked by 850% during this period.

Experts warn “Women are left out of the equation” in discussions of opioid addiction

Fugh-Berman said the gender disparity in the death rates may be because women suffer chronic pain more frequently.

“Four of five people who turn to heroin first start on prescription opioids,” she explained.

“Women are more likely to get addicted to prescription opioids than men, and they can get addicted at lower doses.

“Women are left out of the equation,” she said of debate around the opioid epidemic in the US. “The truth is, they’re susceptible. There should be more attention paid to them.”

Earlier in July 2018, a paper published by Yale University health experts called on policymakers to take into account the different ways in which women encounter opioid abuse and treatment.

Addiction Medicine Director David A. Fiellin, M.D., said more needed to be done to prevent women becoming addicted to opioids.

“As we tackle this epidemic, we must be sure that action plans fully understand and include the influence of gender differences on pain, opioid use, and addiction,” he said.

“Women and men are not identical, and we must treat all people with attention to their specific risks and clinical needs.”